Lesotho, a landlocked country completely surrounded by South Africa, with a population of around 2 million, a net GDP of 2.1 billion, and a per capita income of just around $1200 which is insulting low for a nation.
A huge part of the population of this country lives under extreme poverty with no other option but to rely on Cannabis cultivation which, by law, is illegal to cultivate; but at the same time, it is also the country’s biggest and the most profitable cash crop.
Lesotho has a long history with Cannabis. Its mountainous terrain, fertile soil, and a large supply of water make it an ideal place for the cultivation of Cannabis. In fact, It used to be one of the largest active global providers of Cannabis much before the British arrived in the colonial era.
Despite being illegal, Cannabis is everywhere in Lesotho and it contributes massively to the Lesotho economy. It is estimated that almost 70% of the Cannabis currently present in entire Southern Africa has been smuggled from Lesotho.
For decades, The Lesotho government has been quiet on this issue. As a huge part of Lesotho’s population depends largely on Cannabis, it seems that the government actually wants to support the cultivation of Cannabis in the country and has completely ignored the constant rise of Cannabis production in the country and sometimes even promoted it. Despite this, we are yet to see the decriminalization of Cannabis use in the country.
Will Cannabis Ever Be Legalized in Lesotho?
It is worth noting that Lesotho became the first African country in 2017 to legally allow the cultivation of Cannabis by giving out licenses to foreign companies. In 2018, Lesotho also became the first African country to export Cannabis to the EU and licensed 5 other Canadian companies to grow medical Cannabis.
But apart from that, by law, it is strictly illegal for a standard Lesotho citizen to cultivate Cannabis. But the huge majority of the people who produce Cannabis in the country are the usual citizens without a license and these people sell their product on the black market which is not helping the cause.
According to an act called the “Drugs of Abuse Act” introduced in 2008, it is illegal to have, use or grow Cannabis in Lesotho. There is no adherence to these laws and they are rarely enforced.
The government and enforcement authorities themselves have always been tolerant of this since they seem to think that under the Cannabis economy, the country will be able to provide the basic necessities to its people and also fund some of its basic infrastructures.
Looking at the way the Lesotho government has acted in the recent past, it seems as if, Lesotho is rapidly moving towards the legalization of Cannabis. Critics believe that Lesotho will follow the footsteps of South Africa and is expected to legalize the use, possession, and cultivation of Cannabis by the end of the year 2023.
With more than 50% of Lesotho’s 2.2 million population living below the poverty line and with almost all of these people depending on agriculture, Lesotho’s authorities seem to be fearful and hesitant to strengthen enforcement of the drug laws as it can potentially have devastating impacts on the economy. It is solely because of the fact the only way the people of Lesotho can afford to pay for some of the most basic needs like food and water is by part-taking in the production of Cannabis.
With the government now licensing the cultivation of Cannabis and allowing companies to export, the country can finally receive some foreign investments and gain from the emerging Cannabis industry.